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What I learned at the Bead&Button Show 2017

"Anastasia" by Betty Stephan is easier to make than it looks, thanks to ribbon and chain.

We're getting back into the saddle after the Bead&Button Show 2017, our week-long celebration of all things bead- and jewelry-related. From the classes to the shopping to the social events, this show really is like no other and as always, I had a fabulous time seeing old friends, making new ones, and geeking out over cool new supplies, helpful tips and techniques, and more. 

While I would love to take classes every single day of the show, I have to limit myself to one or two, so that I have time for all the other activities and events. It's always difficult to choose which classes to take, and this year was no different. But I narrowed it down and signed up for two classes that took place on the first day of the Show, Sunday, June 4.

My first class was with Betty Stephan, whose work I first learned about through our BeadDreams competition. Betty has been entering BeadDreams for a number of years and has won several awards for her gorgeous original designs. Her class projects are obviously not as elaborate as her BeadDreams pieces, but they are always beautiful and interesting. In the class, we learned to make her gorgeous bead-embroidered "Anastasia" cuff (above) featuring ribbon, chain, cabochons, and assorted beads.

I thought is was a truly ingenious design because the ribbon and chain give the impression that the piece is much more complicated than it is. It was a great lesson in thinking outside the box and trying different materials than I might normally. I asked Betty what her inspiration was for this design and she said it was the ribbon itself. She had bought a large quantity of it and realized it could be the basis for a nifty design. I actually got almost the entire cuff completed in the 6-hour class — I just had to finish up the edging and attach the clasp when I got home later that night. Betty was a warm, engaging, and entertaining teacher and I truly enjoyed this project!


Eva Sherman's "Ruins of Pompeii" cuff was a good skill-stretcher for me!

In my second class, I learned to make this beautiful brazed copper cuff with Eva Sherman. Eva has seen many different sides of the beading and jewelry world, having owned and operated Grand River Bead Studio, taught countless classes, and written two books, Cool Copper Cuffs and Organic Wire and Metal Jewelry. I had never done any brazing before and wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I knew it was similar to soldering ,but seeing as I hadn't done any soldering either, that little tidbit was helpful as an intellectual tidbit only!

I now know that the techniques used in soldering and brazing are basically the same — the difference is in the metals used and the temperature at which you are joining your metals. Soldering is generally done below 840° F, while brazing takes place at temperatures above 840° F.

To make this bracelet, we annealed 14-gauge copper wire, bent it to create a frame, and then made all the little swirls to fit inside the frame. We heated all the areas where the metal touched, and then dotted the joins with melted brazing wire. This was so much harder than it sounds (at least at first!) because we had to get both the copper and the brazing wires up to the right temperature and then precisely apply the melted brazing wire to the correct spots. My bracelet is a little lumpy and bumpy because I had some control issues (as in I had a very hard time controlling the brazing wire!) but I really love how it turned out. The blue color is an ammonia patina that developed overnight in a sealed container. This class really pushed me out of my comfort zone, as Eva observed, but I loved it and I have lots of ideas for using this technique at home.

All in all, it was another successful Bead&Button Show. And now the countdown begins for next year!

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